Hampden Academy and Bangor have been the poster boys for championship success and consistency in the Eastern Maine Indoor Track League this decade.
They have combined for six league titles with Hampden winning two and Bangor four, while the Rams also possess a Class A state championship (2007).
Those two teams appear to be the frontrunners in Eastern Maine this winter as the Broncos, the reigning EMITL champion, and Rams both have talented casts returning for the 2009-10 season.
Bangor kicked off its preseason practices with two workouts last week while all other EMITL teams began practices Monday.
The first meets are the weekend of Dec. 18-19 at the University of Maine in Orono.
Bangor’s top-notch talent makes it a legitimate contender to return to the top of the league, as the Rams finished second in last year’s championship meet after winning four straight.
The Rams have a new head coach in Jaime Cooke, who takes over for the retired Maynard Walton, and she’ll be blessed with one of the best 1-2 sprinting combinations in the state in Ben Sinclair and Lonnie Hackett.
Hackett and Sinclair, along with distance man Sam Nisbett, have provided great leadership early in the preseason.
“They are ready. They come prepared to practice, come prepared to give their all. They’ve shown a lot of leadership on the team, which is wonderful,” Cooke said.
Sinclair, a senior who transferred from Brewer, owns league records in the 400- and 200-meter dashes, and his 400-meter mark of 49.59 seconds, posted in the championship meet last winter, was the fastest 400-meter time run by a Maine schoolboy runner indoors in state history.
He’s the defending EM champ in all three sprinting events and the reigning Class A winner in the 60 and 200.
Sinclar’s league record in the 200 is 22.79.
Hackett, also a senior, was third in Eastern Maine in the 400 and fifth in the 200 last season, and has already had a whirlwind season on the football field in leading Bangor to the Class A state championship game.
Bangor also features a top-notch distance runner in senior Nisbett, who had a great cross country season which led to a berth in New Englands.
Nisbett really blossomed at the end of outdoor track last spring, running a personal-best 9:53.71 in the state championships in the 3,200 meters.
Sophomore Jonathan Belanger should complement Nisbett well in the distance races.
The Rams also have a good mix of newcomers to go with the veterans.
“We started breaking down into figuring out where we might be trying people,” Cooke said. “I have a lot of new faces so we’re trying to figure out where to put them.”
Hampden rode a wave of talent to its first conference crown since 2003 last year, but many of those key points were lost to graduation.
However, coach Danielle Johnson’s club still has some talent returning.
It includes distance runner Darik Frye, a senior who is coming off an outstanding cross-country campaign in which he won KVAC Class B individual championship honors and earned a berth in the New England championships, and Austin Michaud, a standout in the hurdles and jumps.
Brewer, which tied with Bangor for runner-up honors last year, has a fairly healthy returning nucleus.
The Witches also have a new coach in Matt Collins, who has been coaching as either an assistant or a head coach at the school since the 2002-03 season.
Brewer will be led by senior Steven Rice, second in the EMITL in the hurdles last winter and the PVC champion in the 110 hurdles outdoors.
Rice was also fifth in Class A in the 55 hurdles last winter.
Other key athletes will include Andrew Cote (distance), Tristan Wortman (pole vault), Ben Hafford (distance and Josh Stone (hurdles).
There will be plenty of other standouts to watch around the league as well, including Ben Chapman of Ellsworth in the distance races, along with Nick Byers of Hermon, Justin Cullens of Hermon and Vincent Tymoczko of Bucksport in the sprints, and John Bapst of Bangor’s Stuart Lenz in the sprints and jumps.
Hermon’s Cullens is the top returner in Class B in the 55 meters. He was third in Class B last year.